Hum Factors. 2014 Sep;56(6):1050-61. doi: 10.1177/0018720814522830.
OBJECTIVE: This study examined the impact of stage of automation on the performance and perceived workload during simulated robotic arm control tasks in routine and off-nominal scenarios.
BACKGROUND: Automation varies with respect to the stage of information processing it supports and its assigned level of automation. Making appropriate choices in terms of stages and levels of automation is critical to ensure robust joint system performance. To date, this issue has been empirically studied in domains such as aviation and medicine but not extensively in the context of space operations.
METHOD: A total of 36 participants played the role of a payload specialist and controlled a simulated robotic arm. Participants performed fly-to tasks with two types of automation (camera recommendation and trajectory control automation) of varying stage. Tasks were performed during routine scenarios and in scenarios in which either the trajectory control automation or a hazard avoidance automation failed.
RESULTS: Increasing the stage of automation progressively improved performance and lowered workload when the automation was reliable, but incurred severe performance costs when the system failed.
CONCLUSION: The results from this study support concerns about automation-induced complacency and automation bias when later stages of automation are introduced. The benefits of such automation are offset by the risk of catastrophic outcomes when system failures go unnoticed or become difficult to recover from.
APPLICATION: A medium stage of automation seems preferable as it provides sufficient support during routine operations and helps avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes in circumstances when the automation fails.